The Imploding Marvel Netflix Universe

First, Iron Fist was canceled a week ago by Netflix. Now, after the third season of Daredevil dropped during the past weekend, Netflix announced that Luke Cage has also been canceled. While the axing of Iron Fist was not a unexpected, the cancellation of the latter show came as a big surprise given reports that a new season was about to be greenlit. With these developments, which includes the coming of the Disney streaming app, fans of the Marvel Netflix Universe are wondering if this it for the Marvel Netflix shows.

This may be hard to swallow for some given how well received the Marvel Netflix Universe was at the beginning. Daredevil and Jessica Jones are still considered the best of these shows and created the most buzz, even though the second seasons of both shows weren’t as good as the first. But we have to admit the luster has gone from these shows thanks to the uneven nature of recent shows. Namely Iron Fist, Luke Cage and The Defenders mini-series. So in a sense, the cancellations are not all that surprising. Still, the development signals an uncertain future for the shows.

Luke Cage and Iron Fist

What could happen at this point? A common belief is that Disney will take all the shows for their streaming service, Disney Play, when it launches next year, and it is hoped that Iron Fist and Luke Cage will find new lives in the service. However, it needs to be stressed that the Marvel Netflix shows are for Netflix to cancel or continue, not Disney. Also, the service will cater to more family friendly fare that at most will be PG-13. The Marvel Netflix shows are certainly more adult oriented with their violence. Can you see a brutal show like The Punisher airing on Disney Play? One option is for Disney to stream these shows on Hulu where it will soon own a majority share. The entertainment giant has indicated that more adult fare will stream on Hulu instead of Disney Play. These shows will certainly fit in there if this is to be the new model for Hulu and allow Disney to move Runaways over to Disney Play.

The thing is would Disney want to resurrect Luke Cage and Iron Fist? Both shows have had their problems, but they had their merits and the second season of Iron Fist was a vast improvement over the first. Meanwhile, the second season of Luke Cage ended on a semi-cliffhanger where Luke seemed to be headed towards a dark path as he took over as a benevolent crime lord in Harlem. This was a clear set up for a third season storyline, in fact, the scripts were written for the new season, which won’t see the light of day now. Iron Fist, too, ended with an intriguing new direction for the next season as Danny Rand and Colleen Wing displayed awesome new abilities, which promised an adaptation of the “Immortal Iron Fist” story from the comics.

All this handwringing could be for nothing. For all we know, Netflix may announce tomorrow that both shows will be combined into Heroes For Hire. Fans know that this is what happened with their comic book counterparts when their books were combined into Powerman and Iron Fist back in the ’70s and ’80s.

Then again, Netflix probably and justifiably sees Disney as a genuine threat and has enough original material to dispel with the Marvel Netflix shows. After all, these shows are nominally set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and thus provide a measure of advertising for Disney and Marvel, so why help the competition?

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New seasons of Jessica Jones and The Punisher have been completed and will stream next year. At that point, we will have a clearer idea of where the Marvel Netflix Universe is headed. The next thing to look out for is if Daredevil is renewed for a fourth season. If so, then fans can relax. If no announcements are made or if Daredevil and the surviving shows are axed then it’s over. Sad as this may be, at least we had several seasons and crossovers to enjoy and we can be confident that we have not seen the last of these urban superheroes.

 

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The Defenders Come Together At Last

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The Marvel Studios mini-series event The Defenders just premiered on Netflix and is the culmination of the past four Netflix/Marvel superhero streaming shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. The Defenders finally brings the main leads from those shows together at last like in The Avengers, which what fans have been waiting for ever since the superhero shows were announced years ago. Needless to say this is a big deal for fans of the shows for obvious reasons.

Running only eight episodes, The Defenders stars Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist along with the supporting actors from their respective shows and Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra, the show’s main villain. The Defenders does not take long to get into the action and meat of the story. It starts with all four heroes separately running afoul of the mysterious Alexandra and by the third episode they all meet in the heat of battle and the story just moves along from there. As expected with these Marvel Comics stories, the four don’t exactly get along at first, which is best shown with Rand actually hurting the invulnerable Cage with his Iron Fist. But all ends well as they put aside their differences to face their mutual foes.

In their separate investigations, they learn  that the shadowy criminal organization, The Hand, who have appeared in Daredevil and Iron Fist, are making an ominous move in New York City. In a nutshell without giving too much away, the leaders of the Hand, which includes Alexandra, are carrying out an operation that will wind up destroying the city and it’s up to our heroes to stop them.

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Overall, The Defenders is an enjoyable and brisk-moving mini-series that should delight fans and casual viewers. All the actors bring their A game to the show with the standouts being Cox and his own show’s cast. Fans of the shows should be pleased that all the characters are faithfully presented. Matt Murdock carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, Jessica Jones drinks whenever she can, Luke Cage stands around and gets shot at without any injury and Danny Rand finds any opportunity to say “I am the Immortal Iron Fist!”

Despite all the complaints about Jones and his show, his character here is much better portrayed and less insufferable. Fortunately, Jones proves that he can bring something to the role and Iron Fist’s appearance here presents the case that the faults with the Iron Fist TV show were due to those showrunners, not the character or actor. For example, Jones seems more at ease during his fight scenes, a critical flaw with Iron Fist, and on the whole, the fight choreography was crisp and full of power. The standout fight scene was probably in the third episode when the four Defenders finally all meet each other, but the others spread out in the other episodes are fun to watch and grab your attention, though at times they are too dark and it is clear that some of the actors seem more natural at fighting than others. That criticism does not apply to Jones, believe it or not.

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The villains are another quibble with The Defenders. Unlike The Avengers which had the breakout villain, Loki, the villains in this show are not particularly compelling. Basically, they are just a bunch of super ninjas and though that is appropriate for the power levels of the Defenders, they could have been more threatening or had more clear motives. Another gripe about the show and the villains has to do with the fact that the show takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  It is not the fault of the show, but it is annoying that with the severity of the threat to the city, no one has the notion to try to contact the Avengers or even Dr. Strange given the supernatural aspect of the Hand. We don’t even see the Avengers Tower in the New York skyline, whereas in Spider-Man: Homecoming that film took every opportunity to show the tower whenever there was a shot of the city. Then there is the reaction of some of the characters to what is going on; basically they have a hard time believing in the Hand and their threat, and even the nature of the leads’ powers. This goes for especially Luke Cage, who cannot accept that Danny Rand spent time in another realm and became a mystical warrior. That is a strange reaction for an inhabitant of the MCU that has seen open alien invasions and big league superhuman battles. Let’s not forget that Cage himself has superhuman powers. For these reasons it is hard to accept that The Defenders takes place in the MCU. But that is something that fans have to ignore and just go with the story.

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What ultimately makes The Defenders work is the camaraderie between the leads and seeing them all together. Thankfully, after taking time to introduce them individually in the first episode with interesting cinematography that presents each hero with a different color scheme, the show quickly has them teaming up and getting to the meat of the story. Their interactions were very amusing and some of the show’s best moments. They all had good chemistry and complemented each other well to the point we were sold that they came to care about one another. While The Defenders may not have the same thrilling impact and joy of The Avengers, it is quite enjoyable in its own right and helps set a path forward for the future of these grounded heroes.

Lewis T. Grove

 

 

Jessica Jones AKA Great TV

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Like its predecessor Daredevil, Jessica Jones is an excellent, dark, grounded and captivating TV show. Jessica Jones is Marvel Television and Netflix’s second TV show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and follows the story of the title character (well played by Krysten Ritter) as she goes about her life as a super-powered private investigator.

jess and walkerTake note this isn’t a superhero TV show but a psychological crime drama. Don’t let that keep you from watching it because it’s not your typical crime show. There aren’t any boring procedurals in Jessica Jones, just great character studies and mature themes. As the focus of the show, Jessica Jones keeps you glued to her issues. After she received low-level super strength, she kind of wondered what to do with her life and was talked into trying to become a superhero by her best friend Tricia Walker (Rachael Taylor), who comic book fans will recognize as the lady who will become Hell-Cat.

Flashbacks show that Jessica had her free will taken over by Kilgrave (David Tennant), known in the comic books as the Purple Man. His superpower is to control people kilgraveand what he does in this show is just terrifying and ghastly. What he makes people do as he lives a hedonistic lifestyle was disturbing and demonstrates that Kilgrave is a more effective villain than most MCU villains who rant about destroying the world. Seriously, Kevin Feige and his gang at Marvel Studios should look at these Netflix shows to see how to do a real supervillain!

Jessica was able to break away from Kilgrave, leaving him for dead, but is very haunted by her experiences where he made her do things against her nature including murder. In the present, she’s got a tough but fragile shell and lives a barebones life in the seedier part of Manhattan. Her investigations lead her to discover that Kilgrave is still alive and stalking her. Early in the series, Jessica makes the decision to confront him with her reluctantly accepting the help of an oddball crew. They include Tricia, bar owner Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and former victims of Kilgrave such as recovering addict Malcolm (Eka Darville) and Simpson (Wil Traval), a policeman sent by Kilgrave to kill Tricia.

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While I think Daredevil was a better show one thing Jessica Jones is superior with is with the supporting cast. Most of the characters are very likeable and all are well performed. People that viewers would disregard at first sight like Malcolm as just a junkie or Simpson as a thuggish cop have many layers to them and once we get to know them they become sympathetic. This layering also makes us hate Kilgrave even more, never mind what he did to Jessica. The show does an excellent job of illustrating a paranoid mood as Jessica has to look over her shoulder at everyone since any person she passes by in New York could be under Kilgrave’s evil influence. Who would’ve thought that a forgettable Daredevil villain in the comics would be so formidable? It just proves that the showrunners hit the mark by getting Tennant to play him. His acting is so good you forget that he was once the loveable Doctor in Doctor Who.

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Aside from its paranoia, the show is very gritty at times with borderline R-rated fare that drips with lots of violence, cursing and sexual innuendo. At times it takes on a pseudo-noir motif as Jessica narrates her observations while she does her work. At times the show feels cliché, especially with all the scenes (it was borderline silly) of her swigging down alcohol, and many panning shots jess and cageof the gritty city that try to emulate Taxi Driver, but it usually works. This world felt real and grounded and largely removed from the MCU, though the presence of superheroes is there. Many of the MCU Easter eggs run the gamut of being so subtle you miss them to being upfront and moving along the fact that this little corner of the MCU has its own inter-connected world. By the way, the show makes great use of Luke Cage, who is well fleshed out as a character in his own right and perfectly set up to headline his own TV show. Can’t wait to see it.

Once again Marvel hits it out of the park with Jessica Jones and prove that when they put their collective minds to it, they can produce memorable TV fare.

T. Rod Jones

Star Trek Returns To TV

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After being out of the TV landscape for over a decade now, Star Trek will finally return as a TV series on January 2017. Now the bad news, it will only be available via streaming a la Netflix. Actually if it was on Netflix or a cable channel it wouldn’t be so bad but in order to see the entire series you have to purchase the new streaming service called CBS All Access.

CBS Television Studios stated in a press release that aside from the first episode, which will be broadcast on the network, all the other episodes will only be shown on the streaming service for $5.99 per month.

Think about that. Six bucks a month just to see new Star Trek episodes. While the service also provides access to the previous Star Trek series (and don’t be surprised if all all enterprisethe series will become exclusive to CBS All Access–goodbye Netflix), who wants to pay more money from our TV budget just to see Star Trek? It’s bad enough we have to pay for cable and Netflix just to see the better shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Daredevil, but now we’re being forced to cough up more money just to see new Star Trek. Never mind that we’ll be able to see the junk that CBS has because who cares about all the CSI/N CIS clones and stale comedies that clutter that network’s schedule?

This follows the same dumb strategy that Paramount carried out in the ’90s with their so-called TV network UPN. Star Trek: Voyager kicked off the network, which struggled throughout its existence until it finally merged with the other fledgling WB Network and became The CW. Of course, by that time Star Trek was banished and retired. The point is that this strategy didn’t turn out too well, so what makes CBS think it will work this time? The smarter thing would’ve been to shop it to a cable channel or strike a deal with Netflix or Hulu. Broadcasting Star Trek on CBS is a non-starter and won’t be a good fit with their generically bland fare. This also proves the notion that network and even cable TV is dying out and underlines the fact that streaming services will be the standard for watching TV programs.

kurtzman pineother downside with this announcement has to do with who is running the show. Alex Kurtzman, the guy who helped dumb down Star Trek in the movies with his cohorts J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci. So it’s a given at this point that despite the press release proclaiming that the show will feature new characters it’s a lock that it will take place in the NuTrek universe that emphasizes cheap and flashy thrills over substance. Many talented showrunners could’ve been given the reins for the new Star Trek show, people like Bryan Singer, J. Michael Straczynski and even Manny Coto have expressed interest in jumpstarting a new Star Trek show. Any of them would’ve been terrific choices to hand the franchise over to and let it grow. But with Kurtzman in charge, it just leaves a sour taste and there isn’t any way that the original and true Star Trek universe will ever return.

Honestly, ask yourself this question: will this new Star Trek be worth the extra expense? Sure, it’s great that Star Trek is finally back on TV where it belongs, but not under these circumstances.

Waldermann Rivera